Place names in OE

The West Midlands is overwhelmingly Anglo Saxon in the origin of its place names, most of which were common nouns in OE. The Watling Street cuts a diagonal slash across the Midlands. Although the Romans constructed this major highway, a treaty agreed by King Alfred used it define the border with the Danelaw. It was defined by the peace treaty of 886 between Alfred and Guthrum. While he ruled Essex, the main Danish kingdom was based at York, which they called Yorvik.

Names of Danish settlements occur once your are east of the modern A5. At Two Gate near Tamworth you would pass from the Anglo-Saxon area of control to the Danelaw. Place names often use a common noun in the second syllable of each of the two languages. Here are the top five in each language:

Suffix English Danish

enclosure -tun -by
valley -hal -dale
cleared land -ley -ló
road -street -gate
small village -ham -thorp

We can make imaginary journeys and try to work out the meanings. A drive from south-west to north-east Midlands might include these towns:

Going NE: Dudley, Walsall, Chasetown, Two Gate, Ashby, Osgathorp, Edale

Going E: Enville, Wollaston, Quinton, Rugby, Scraptoft

Ekwall’s dictionary of English place names is my preferred authority, but Googling the place name and “etymology” is also good. Make up your own journey!

Are Germanic grammatical genders an Animist residual?
Most ancient people attributed consciousness to animals, weather, water features etc.
Sun and moon were attributed sentience: der Mond, die Sonne; are der Stern and der Planet their children?
However, Romance languages have le soleil/ la lune, o sol/ a lua, etc.
Incas gendered silver as tears of the moon, gold as tears of the sun.

Arbitrariness of association between form and meaning
This was formalized by de Saussure (1916). There are very few signs. The exceptions are a few baby words (mama, baba) and some onomatopoeias (splash, woof)
Grammatical gender is attributed independently of biological sex.

Do secondary sex characteristics confirm to a child’s sex? No.
Typisch für das Mädchen sind die Gebärmutter, der Eierstock, der Eileiter, die Vagina, der Gebärmutterhals.
Typisch für den Jungen sind der Hoden, die Prostata und der Penis.
So in German a (neuter) girl has at least three masculine reproductive parts.

Paradigmatic suffixes in MHG

These are some intuitions of a native German speaker about the formal gender of a suffix.
Bold is used in the first three sets below to suggest that this high word might be the paradigm.

-er masc. Fahrer, Beamter, Jäger Important word Kaiser
-in fem. of male occupation, so -erin, also die Äbtissin; Imkerin, Kaiserin
-chen neuter Bäumchen; many immature plants, some animals
-o neuter a foreign word das Auto (‘self-propelled’) , Foto, Büro
-i fem, diminutive die Puppi, die Mausi; Swiss das Muesli is amusing
-e fem the generic die Katze implies female characteristics; a clearly male cat can be der Kater
-nis neuter, abstract das Finsternis, das Geheimnis, das Erlebnis
-ich adjectival, e.g. fröhlich, but when a noun it is masc. der Radich, der Teppich